Writer Rosemary Harris talks about giggling elephants

The story in question. As part of our 10th anniversary this year, we have asked our artists, community partners and participants to tell us their favourite experience of working with Create.  Our writer Rosemary Harris sent us this: Giggling elephants It’s almost impossible to give voice to the memories I have of the many Create projects I’ve been involved in over the years.  All have been memorable, for the human contact at the core of the creative process.  So I’ll stick with one that, for me, provides all the evidence I could want of the value of Create’s work for all involved. Several times I have gone into a prison with Create to work with young fathers – inmates – on writing and making story books for their very small children.  It’s always a truly extraordinary process, in which often hardened and deeply troubled young men fronted up on the first day, full of resistance and reluctance, but desperately wanting to do something positive for their children.  Gradually over the days the levels of resistance gave way to delight in the process, tapping in to their own (often unaddressed) childish needs. Once the stories were written, the process of recording them for the CD began, and was a whole other challenge, taking the young men out even further of their comfort zones.  They not only had to read their own stories out, but to provide voices for characters in other people’s work – fairies, elves, monkeys, Father Christmas, and so on.  I have a very clear memory of four hardened men standing around doing elephant voices, and being unable to complete it take after take because they were all giggling like toddlers. Eventually the story was recorded, and they felt a huge sense of achievement at having made something of worth to share with their families, a rare experience for many inmates.  For me, it was that humanizing moment, the childlike glee in being silly, in play, in creativity, that was a vital reminder to these men that they were more than just offenders, that they were human beings with other things to offer, that was unforgettable.